by Dan McClelland
The report by the town committee charged this past summer to look for innovative ways to move the Tupper Lake golf course into a brighter future will be the fodder of board discussion when the town board meets on October 11.
Earlier this year Town Councilman Mike Dechene called together about one dozen local residents who love golf and who were very familiar with the workings of the local 18 and the sport in general. A number of the committee members like Ray Martin, Ron Belleville and John Moore were former golf course board members and several were current board members, including Jim Boucher. Golf Pro Evan LaBarge was also a key member of the study group.
Mr. Dechene chaired the committee.
At the September town board meeting Mr. Dechene had the group's report in his hand, but asked his colleagues to postpone its release until all five board members could study the finding. Missing that evening were Deputy Supervisor John Quinn and Councilwoman Tracy Luton.
“I think we should talk about this when we have a full board,” he told Supervisor Patti Littlefield and Councilwoman Mary Fontana that evening.
“I'd like to hold its release until then!”
He said the volunteers who studied the revenues, expenses and current practices at the town facility with an eye to finding good paths on which to move forward “worked a lot of hours” on their assignment and the report it generated.
Mr. Dechene said the committee gathered “lots and lots and lots of information” and came up with some very realistic expectations for the golf course's future operation. “They did a fantastic job overall!”
Mrs. Littlefield, who sits on the town board's golf course committee with Mr. Dechene, said the group members “brought a lot of expertise” to their assignment, which began in early summer.
“They brought a lot of information to their discussions. In particular they looked at how things were done when times were good!” she stated.
Mr. Dechene said he believes strongly that the town-owned golf course can be an economic driver here, if operated correctly.
The supervisor said the committee was asked to come up with ways to improve the golf course at a time in America when the sport is on the wane.
“How do you make people get interested in golf?
She said a game of golf “is a five hour tour”...a five hour commitment and people today have a difficult time finding five hours in their busy lives to devote to something.
Mrs. Littlefield said that in addition to the members of the study committee there are a number of local residents who routinely volunteer to help there.
She called the golf course “a great facility” that is not nearly used to its fullest.
The board of directors there routinely struggles “to make ends meet” what with declining members.
To generate revenues the golf course leaders annually stage a number of benefits, she said.
Mr. Dechene noted that one event the board staged this year generated $21,000 to help the course's bottom line.
The supervisor said the people who serve on the golf course board are “very positive thinking.”
“As we develop our budget we are hoping we had help- maybe by covering grounds maintenance expenses,” she offered.
“My goal is to build a strong partnership” between the town board and the golf course board.
Mr. Dechene said he thought that partnership already exists.
He applauded the study group members for the “passion” they brought to their assignment by the town this summer. “It's going to bear fruit” in the years ahead.
He asserted again that the town board does not want to operate the golf course. The elected officials want the golf course board to be successful, according to the councilman.
“I'm very happy with the report. I think we're headed in a good direction!”
He admitted there are always a lot of nay-sayers in the community who probably don't think so, but he said he believes the future can be bright for the local course.